MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andrey Rublev beat wild-card entry Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on Tuesday to advance to the second round of the Australian Open.
Thiem, a runner-up at the Australian Open in 2020 and the U.S. Open winner the same year, missed much of 2021 due to injuries but has recovered from outside the top 350 last year to a place just inside the top 100. He was given a wild-card entry by tournament organizers.
“When you see you have to play against Dominic you know it’s not going to be easy. I know he’s going through some not easy times so I wish him all the best to come back to the level he can be as fast as possible,” Rublev said.
Rublev will next play either the Australian qualifier Max Purcell or Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.
Thiem had treatment to his abdominal muscles midway through the second set but said it was not serious and he was not disheartened by his performance.
“This tournament doesn’t change anything because I just had a really tough opponent,” he said. “I hope that I can improve the results at the South American clay.”
Grigor Dimitrov, a semifinalist in Melbourne in 2017, beat Aslan Karatsev 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-2. He will take on Laslo Djere in the second round.
Caroline Garcia started her quest for a first Grand Slam singles title with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Katherine Sebov, a qualifier from Canada. The fourth-seeded player, who won the WTA Finals at the end of 2022, took just 65 minutes for victory and now plays another Canadian, former U.S. Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez, who beat Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-2.
No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka maintained her unbeaten start to the year with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Tereza Martincova. Sabalenka, who won the Adelaide International title in the first week of the year, hit 29 winners to her opponent’s seven as she won her fifth consecutive match.
“It wasn’t that easy, I’m super-happy to start with the win,” said Sabalenka, who will play American Shelby Rogers in the second round. “I have to work on my mindset and stay calm and not get too upset when I make mistakes. I really believe this is the only thing missing in my game.”
Sabalenka hasn’t made it past the fourth round at the Australian Open in five previous visits.
Garbine Muguruza, the runner-up in Melbourne in 2020, lost her fifth consecutive match to start the year when she was beaten 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-1 by Elise Mertens.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza served for the match at 6-5 in the second set.
Former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova eased past Wang Xyi of China 6-1, 6-3. Taylor Townsend won her first Grand Slam match since becoming a mother, beating Diane Parry, a wild-card entry from France, 6-1, 6-1. The American will next meet Ekaterina Alexandrova.
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